It makes sense that people usually store many packs of mac and cheese in case of an emergency. But as you store mac and cheese, can it stay long in the fridge? How long is mac and cheese good for in the fridge?
Mac and cheese ( or macaroni and cheese) is simple yet delicious food. It’s the ultimate food for many people. Undoubtedly, mac and cheese originated from Italy in the 13th century.
But the company that popularized mac and cheese is Kraft. It put the mac and cheese in boxes in the form of an easy-to-serve portion. After that, the dish becomes popular in America and later the world.
Is mac and cheese healthy?
Eating too much mac and cheese is not good for your health. Mac and cheese is made from rich calorie ingredients like pasta, cheese and milk or cream, so it is typically high in calories and sodium. Per serving, it contains 300–500 calories and 600–1,200 mg of sodium. However, these numbers can be different depending on the manufacturers, ingredients as well as how much you eat.
Therefore, you should enjoy the dish in moderation with no more than 150-250 grams (1 cup) per serving.
If you are a mac and cheese lover, there are some methods to make your mac and cheese lower in calories as well as healthier.
How to reduce the calories in mac and cheese?
You can apply several ways to reduce the calories and increase protein and fiber.
- Replace plain macaroni by pasta made from beans or chickpeas. This replacement will increase protein and fiber contents
- Put more vegetables to your mac and cheese to make it rich in fiber and nutrient values
- Use cauliflower or broccoli instead of plain macaroni to lower the levels of carbs and calories
- Include diced chicken breast, tuna or beans to make the dish more filling but still provides high protein
- Reduce half the amount of cheese and add more herbs or spices
- Use unsweetened nut milk
With the above substitutions, you can enjoy a healthier mac and cheese which is still delicious but lower in calories and higher in protein and fiber.
What is the shelf life of mac and cheese?
When buying from the store, every unopened package of mac and cheese has an expiration date. If you store it properly, the package can be good for use after a year beyond the best-by date.
For the cooked mac and cheese, if being placed at room temperature, it can last about 2 hours. Because the bacteria and other microbes will easily grow between 40°F and 140°F and spoil your food. In the fridge, it can stay good for 3 to 5 days. To extend its shelf life, you should freeze it after putting it in an airtight container.
Why do you need to refrigerate mac and cheese?
Just like many other foods in the packet, you will often not eat all of the mac and cheese, so there will be leftovers. Keeping it for later use, the leftover mac and cheese should be stored in the fridge.
After cooking your own mac and cheese, you want to preserve it with best quality and safety for later use, you should let it cool and put it in airtight containers prior to refrigerating it.
How long can you store mac and cheese in the fridge?
Even if you store your mac and cheese in an airtight container, it can only be kept in the fridge for at best 3 to 5 days. After that, it will go bad with many bad signs and will be harmful to your health in the long run. Therefore, you should consume your mac and cheese as soon as possible.
You may also like: How Long Does Alfredo Sauce Last in the Fridge?
How long is unopened mac and cheese good for in the fridge?
The best-by date of the unopened mac and cheese packets vary depending on the brands and the amount of ingredients. But generally, an unopened mac and cheese packet can be safe outside for a decent amount of time if the packet isn’t opened yet.
As with many other types of food, the fridge can extend the life span of the mac and cheese packets. As long as it is unopened, it can be store beyond its best-by-date for up to a year.
How to know if mac and cheese goes bad?
Cooked mac and cheese
When the cooked mac and cheese goes bad, you will notice instantly. To determine whether it has gone bad, here are the indications.
Odor: The spoiled cooked mac and cheese will give out an unpleasant smell, opposite of the usual cheesy and creamy smell.
Mold: If you can’t smell very well, then the appearance is another sign. Cooked mac and cheese is moist, so it is natural that the mold will build up once the mac and cheese’s life span runs out. The mold will be noticeable right away once you look at the cooked mac and cheese. At this point, you should throw out the cooked mac and cheese immediately.
Texture: When going bad, the cooked mac and cheese has slimy, gooey texture or becomes clumped. Once you notice anything strange in texture of mac and cheese, you’d better discard it.
Packet mac and cheese
If the packet mac and cheese is still unopened and most of the ingredient in the packet is dry, your food is still good.
If the packet mac and cheese is opened or punctured and the environment around the packet is moist, it means the sauce part of the mac and cheese would be affected by the moisture and form mold. At that point, your best choice is to throw the packet of mac and cheese away immediately.
What cheese is the best in mac and cheese?
Some best types of cheese to use in mac and cheese include:
- Sharp Cheddar: One of the best choices to use for coating the macaroni
- Gouda: An often underrated cheese used for cooking
- Gruyere: While the cheese is hard when used in cooking, it melts and give out a nice flavor and looks good
- Cream cheese: Smooth when melted and works well with slow-cooker mac and cheese
- Brie: A fancy option, you need to remove the rind first. The creamy smoothness of Brie will make an excellent sauce to coat your noodles
- Goat cheese: Extra tangy and creamy and stays well after being cooked
- Parmesan: Best for topping with a decent nutty and salty flavor
and other cheese that is shredded properly.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does mac and cheese dry mix stay good?
Mac and cheese dry mix can last for about 3 months beyond the “best-by” date if it is stored properly. It means you should place it in a cool, dry, and dark corner of the pantry away from direct sunlight and heat.
If the mac and cheese dry mix is put in freezer, it can last for 6 months beyond the “best by”. But make sure that you place it inside a double plastic freezer bag and ensure that moisture cannot reach it.
How to store mac and cheese properly?
With the dry mix, you should place the sealed package in the pantry or any dry places that there is no direct heat, sunlight, and moisture (avoid humid environment).
For the cooked mac and cheese, you should let it cool down before refrigerating or freezing it. Put the cooked mac and cheese in an airtight container or a plastic zipper bag, it can stay good in fridge for 3 to 5 days. For longer preservation, it should be kept in the freezer.
Is mac and cheese mix safe to use after the “expiration date” on the package?
Yes, you can safely use it beyond the “best – by” date because this is the “Best before” date, not the safety date. But you must ensure that it is properly stored, and the package is undamaged. However, you should consume it as soon as possible after the expiration date.
Popular Packaged Macaroni & Cheese
Kraft Deluxe White Cheddar & Cracked Black Peppercorn Macaroni & Cheese
Kraft Easy Mac Big Bowl Original Macaroni and Cheese
Annie’s Organic Macaroni and Cheese Variety Pack
Kraft Easy Mac Triple Cheese Microwavable Cup
Kraft White Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese Meal
Annie’s Classic Mild Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese, Family Size
HORMEL COMPLEATS Macaroni & Cheese Microwave Tray
Kraft Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese Made with 2% Milk Cheese Meal
Overall, there is a slight difference between cooked and packet mac and cheese.
For cooked mac and cheese, you should put it in an airtight container, and then it can be preserved in the fridge for about 3 to 5 days.
For an unopened packet of mac n cheese, it can be stored for up to 1 year beyond its expired date. But if opened, watch out for the moisture and put it in an airtight space to continue storing it.
- How Long Does Mac and Cheese Last?,
- Food Storage – How long can you keep Macaroni and cheese, stilltasty.com, Retrieved on Oct. 15, 2021